Community College Summit: Part 2

Concurrent Session 5
Community College

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Brief Abstract

Join us for this second session of three sessions at OLC’s Community College Summit, where we bring together educators and advocates of community colleges. This session will focus on creating and implementing online, blended and digital learning innovations within community colleges that can be sustained over time. Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Online will highlight its virtual student union as an exemplar innovative practice. The NOVA Virtual Student Union (VSU) is a digital hub for students to connect with the college and each other without physically being on campus. When the COVID-19 Pandemic hit, Student Life college-wide rallied to migrate all Student Life resources into the online campus’ portal, scaling up consistent support to its 75,000 students. This success and opportunity to engage diverse students across the college community will now be extended beyond the pandemic. Throughout this engagement hub, students have access to participate in Student Life activities, join discussion forums and connect with many educational resources, all online.

Sponsored By


Alexander (Alex) Case is the OLC Associate Vice President of Strategic Partnership and Grants. In this capacity, he is responsible for growing OLC’s reach in the areas of grants, strategic partnerships, and consulting. Alex brings a diverse array of experience to this position from federal civil service, K-12, and higher education leadership roles. He is eager to affirm OLC’s thought leadership while managing multifaceted relationships with institutions, organizations, associations, foundations, and corporate partners. He is also committed to charting our community’s growth in the K-12 and international sectors. Prior to joining the OLC, Alex served as the Interim Director of Student Services (Dean of Students) and Associate Director of Instructional Design and Development for the Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Online program. NOVA is a member of the 24-school Virginia Community College System (VCCS) and is among the largest community colleges in the nation. There, he oversaw creation and maintenance of an online portfolio of 400 online asynchronous courses spanning all academic pathways, offered in over 1,200 sections per semester, and serving 23,000 students per year. He was also involved in his state system’s work to extend program completion outcomes state-wide via the Online Virginia Network and oversaw his entire online program portfolio’s learning management system conversion. Alex began his education career in the K-12 sector where he was a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, and school-based administrator for a decade. His final role was as principal of socio-economically and racially diverse high school where he led 2,600 students and 350-person multigenerational staff on a three-building campus in Fairfax County, Virginia. He successfully led his school out of accreditation with warning status in one year, oversaw the development of a governor’s career and technical education academy, and deepened its Blue Ribbon Award-winning fine and performing arts center. Prior to teaching, Alex held positions in training, business management, and strategic planning for the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency. Alex completed his B.A. in history, political science, and secondary education from the University of Mary Washington (Fredericksburg, Virginia), instructional design coursework from George Mason University (Fairfax, Virginia), a M.Ed. in Education Leadership from the University of Virginia (Charlottesville, Virginia), and is presently completing a dissertation towards a Ph.D. in Education at George Mason University.
Dr. Cynthia Pascal is the Director of Student Services at Northern Virginia Community College’s online division. With over 45 years of distance learning experience, NOVA Online couples world-class online instruction with holistic student support services. When not serving the NOVA community she is a consultant with NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising, the Advising Success Network, and Student-Ready Strategies.
Charlotte Lombardo is the Student Life Coordinator for Northern Virginia Community College's Online Division. She has worked in Higher Education for over five years with a focus on Event Management roles. She received her B.S. in Tourism and Events Management from George Mason University and is currently pursuing Graduate studies in Arts Management. Her passion lies in creative expression, student development, community involvement, and experiential learning.

Extended Abstract

Powered by the Office of Student Life's vision to engage all students beyond the classroom, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) seamlessly responded to the COVID-19 Pandemic in preserving Student Life programming through its Virtual Student Union (VSU). The VSU is housed within the college learning management system, Canvas, and is strategically placed to meet students where they are at. Throughout the semester, NOVA Student Life staff across six campuses collaborated with NOVA Online Student Services to host student-led discussion boards, asynchronous and synchronous programming, and cross-departmental collaborations. The VSU is a driving mechanism to inspire students to become active members of the campus and community. The platform connects NOVA's diverse student body to foster meaningful interactions and maintains space and resources for students in a virtual setting. The VSU amplifies efforts of the Office of Student Life to provide access to initiatives that enrich College culture, engage student leaders to discover new knowledge that enables them to critically evaluate evidence, make informed judgments, balance multiple perspectives and act ethically, and expand opportunities for experimental learning, civic engagement, cultural enrichment, leadership development, recreation and service-learning. These initiatives will continue post-Pandemic based on NOVA’s success during the remote shift and how it has drawn in more diverse students seeking connection and support. Learn what we’ve experienced and where we are thinking of heading.